Future Nerf: Chapter 2
READ THIS FIRST!
This is being added to the beginning of every chapter of the former "Future Nerf" series that I wrote several years ago. While the story is available for nostalgia purposes, it must be understood that the story as I've understood and developed it is a far cry from what you'll find here. Please do not modify or construct any prequel/sequel/alternate stories of your own based on these. One day when I've put all my thoughts into words there may be a re-release...not only of these chapters, but of the entire story, beginning to end, which no one has seen yet. Aside from this, enjoy :-).
A man sat alone in a dark booth in the Luna Landa. His appearance made him seem out of place: he should have been at a neo-rodeo competition instead of a dim space- and new-age-themed bar. It was, however, part of that appearance that kept people from asking about his reasons for being there. He was a tall man, even when sitting down. He had a medium build, and powerful muscles. This body, along with a mercenary-style assortment of weapons, was wrapped inside a white tank top and nylon breakaway pants, and all was shrouded by a dark brown trench coat. His face was also wrapped in mystery. A pair of sunglasses covered his eyes (even in the dark bar, he had not taken them off), and his neck-length blond hair was partially covered by a large, western hat. A blond mustache caressed his upper lip, and fell away at the corners of his mouth, down to his chin.
So it was that this man, as enigmatic as the Lunas who owned the bar, sat. He sat in a place that was not his taste, sipping a drink that did not agree with him, studying the faces of people he didn't want to meet, and deciding not to watch the dance going on at the center stage. And he was content. Patient would be nearer the mark, and only because of the one thing he was truly doing: waiting for a man who could give him a lot of money.
At length, this man arrived, wrapped in a coat of his own, and making some effort to keep his face out of sight. "Mr. West," he said as he approached the table. "That's me," West confirmed as he kicked the opposite chair out for the man, "sit down." "I appreciate you agreeing to take this job on such short notice," "I haven't agreed to anything," West corrected, "I'm here because you're paying me for my time. Now, what have you got?" "A simple operation in theory, really," the potential employer began, "a rerouting operation on a commercial convoy." "Details, man, details," West hurried the man. "The Tycoons have a shipment of valuable goods scheduled to make a stop at a warehouse," the man continued, "once they are about to leave, my employers want the trucks commandeered by our own people, and driven to a different location. We anticipate a little bit of resistance, and decided that an experienced gunman like yourself would provide us the cover we need."
"Okay, stop," West said, holding up his hand, "First of all, you still haven't told me what team you're with. Second, I want to know exactly what kind of cargo is being transferred."
The man seemed to smirk a bit, "I'm afraid you're being a bit too curious, Mr. West. My team sends me as liaison because they don't want to be discovered. By anyone. About the cargo, it's just some every day goods, small items, nothing of any concern to you, but my team happens to want them."
West leaned forward, "Now, tell me why a team this obsessed with security would want to hijack a shipment of groceries and Dollar Tree trinkets, hm?"
"Careful, Mr. West," the man replied darkly, "asking questions is a dangerous thing. There is such a thing as too much information."
"West shook his head and leaned back confidently, "Not in my business. I can play along if you want to keep your secrets, but that kind of luxury comes with a price tag." "How much?" the man sneered. "Make the total five hundred thousand." The man thought carefully, then nodded, "Alright, that can be arranged, as long as we have assurance that our cargo's privacy will be maintained." "You'll have it," West replied.
"Good," the man said, standing up, "I've heard that you are a man of your word, Mr. West. Please see that you keep this reputation, otherwise my associates will make your life…" the man smiled grimly, "…nonexistent."
"Then know that the same goes for you," West prodded, "If I'm not paid…" "A moot point," the man interrupted with a wave of his hand, "since you will be. You've already been paid for your time, good day, Mr. West." "Of course, Mr…?" West inquired. The man looked back over his shoulder, "As I've already said, that would be too much information. After you've completed your mission and been paid, you will not see me again…unless I have reason to see you. And that is something you don't want."
With that, West's new employer stalked out the door and disappeared into the street. West stayed for a while in the Luna Landa, finishing his drink, and deciding to watch the dance for only a few minutes. The show entranced him, as he watched moves so fluid they seemed impossible. It was nearer to half an hour later, when the show was finally over, that West had no worries about his mission, had acquired a taste for his drink (which was now gone), and felt strangely relaxed. He paid his tab, left a tip, and wandered slowly out of the bar.
Duncan sat on a chair in Custer's apartment, reading e-mail on his Sprint PCS phone. The entire RAD team was assembled for a team meeting to discuss finances and other matters.
"You know, Custer," Duncan said, "this service is really amazing. We shold make it a team expense for all the members to have one!" "Yes, it would be nice if we could make it a team expense, but I need to talk about that today," Custer replied. "Let me guess," Sharpknux said, "we're out of money and there are no jobs available." "Close, but no cigar," Starbuck followed up, "We're almost out of money, and the only worthwhile jobs available now require a little more manpower than we have now." "How much more?" Curt asked. Custer replied "If we added just one more person to the team we could begin taking jobs that would bring in about fifty thousand a week for the team…quite easily, I might add. That doesn't include what you'd get individually, either." "So," Starbuck continued, "we find one more member, and we're out of the woods." Duncan looked back down at his phone to check his last e-mail. "I don't think there's anyone here that we know so far," Curt said doubtfully, "and trying to find a freelancer could take time. Hiring someone on a as-needed basis would cost a lot more. How do you propose we find someone soon enough to keep things together?" Duncan held up his phone and smiled, "By meeting him at the airport at nineteen hundred hours."
Actually, the plane didn't land until nineteen twenty hours, but such was the case with most airlines. Custer and Duncan waited as the plane docked with the terminal, and then waited as an endless line of people disembarked. Finally, they saw the person the were waiting for. "Boomslang!" Custer called to him. Boom, looking around, then spotted Custer and Duncan. Greetings and catching-up conversation was exchanged as the trio went to pick up Boom's luggage. An hour later, they were just finishing dinner at The Promenade." "Well," Boom was saying, wiping his mouth carefully with a napkin, "sounds like a good opportunity. I've heard that joining a team as soon as possible is something one wants to do early on, but is normally difficult. Thanks for the offer." "You're in then?" Duncan questioned. "Of course," Boom smiled, and held up his glass, "Here's to the elite of NAB, together again."
Duncan and Custer drank to that, although many of the "elite of NAB" were still unheard from. In any case, they didn't mind at that point, and the membership was sealed. Boom was now a member of RAD. The three sat for a while longer and talked before Boom left for his pre-reserved apartment. Duncan called his hovercraft in to pick him up, and Custer finally climbed into his Mitsubishi 5500 GT to go home.
As soon as Custer walked into the hall that led to his apartment, he knew something was wrong. The dim lights in the hallway betrayed a thin stream of light shining under his door. Custer always left the lights out. As he quietly unlocked the door, his hand went automatically beneath the left side of his jacket, carefully removing his WildClip Portable. Custer turned the knob slightly, then kicked the door in, entering the room with his weapon in a two-handed grip. West applauded sarcastically from the lounge chair at the opposite corner of the room.
"Is this always what you do when you come home, or was that grand entrance just for me?" West asked. "Where I come from, and I live now, for that matter, we call you being here breaking and entering," Custer said, waving the gun carefully at West. "And your followup was quite nice as well," West replied, "Anyway, I'll introduce myself, and then we must talk." "Why?" Custer demanded shortly. West smiled, "Because I need your help."
The next day, Custer had assembled the RAD team at his apartment.
"Gentlemen," Custer began, "this is West. He was from NAB in the old days as well under a similar name."
"Yeah, I remember him," Boom said, "The insulting dweeb who was always on the verge of suicide. Glad to see you got over the suicide, West. What about the insulting?"
"Insulting is pointless," West reflected, "as is suicide. But I still don't like you."
"West," Custer interupted, "has come to us for help, not for membership. We'll be profiting a great deal from this, so you'll do well to listen to his plan."
West stood up and walked to a digisketch on the wall. "Yesterday, I scouted a target area and gathered information about a job I was hired for. It seems the Tycoons are moving a shipment through the city, and are taking a stopping point at this warehouse."
West clicked a button several times, showing a map of the city, a closer view of sevreal blocks, and finally a structural view of the warehouse.
"My employer wants me to hit this convoy when it comes in, take out its defenses, and capture the drivers. Drivers of their own will come in when I give the signal to commandeer the trucks, and drive them to an...alternate location. The team that employeed me is a bit insistent on security. They're hiring us because they don't want their people revealed. They also," West made a special point, "want the cargo on the trucks to remain unseen."
Duncan looked at him in disbelief, "I never thought you were stupid, West. Taking a job where you don't know the employers, or the target's carog, or the final destination?"
"We're not hired to know that, Duncan," West said, "We're hired to take out the defenses and secure the area, so that their people can do the rest. We're not moving the cargo, just...transferring ownership."
Duncan seemed satisfied, and motioned West to continue with his briefing.
"I've got a layout of the warehouse, and the location of the cargo is shown as it was at Oh-five hundred hours this morning. Nothing is scheduled to move in today until our target time, so everything should be as it is now. This will help with our tactical planning," West turned off the digisketch, "Custer already said this will be a profitable job, and he's right. I need three of you. You'll each get fifty thousand for your help, plus fifty thousand to your team stash."
Custer said, "I want Sharpknux and Duncan to go. Boom, we'll consider this your first RAD mission. You're in too. Any objections?"
With fifty thousand dollars catching their attention, there were no objections.
"Good," West began again, "Meet me at the corner of the warehouse at fourteen hundred hours. We'll get in position for the convoy arrival half an hour later."
As West left the room, Custer looked at his team and said, "Don't screw this up."
At fourteen hundred hours, West, Sharpkux, Duncan, and Boom were assemebled on the street corner outside the massive warehouse. A moment later, they had taken a back door to the inside, and began setting up their ambush. The warehouse was an L-shaped building, with a large cargo door at each end. As a failsafe, West started by setting the exit door not to open until he gave the signal. He and Sharpknux took up ambush positions behind huge crates near the entrance door, while Duncan and Boom went into the driver's lounge and prepared it. Duncan decided that simply rendering the drivers unconcious was enough, so he rigged a sleeping gas cannister under the table, and installed a device in the door that would lock it from the inside when signalled by a remote. Boom and Duncan then rejoined the other two at the entrance, and waited.
Right on time, the entrance door opened up, and five cargo trucks rolled in. Once they were all in, the door was closed. The Tycoon security officers got out first, and gave the place a quick glance, then started check the trucks all over. The drivers and their backups (eight in all) left the trucks, and entered the lounge. So far, everything was going according to plan. Duncan looked at West to make sure everything was okay, then hit the button on his remote. Simultaneously the lounge door locked, and the gas cannister inside hissed open. One of the drivers yelled when he realized what had happened. There were two security officers inside the lounge, and they tried to open the door before they passed out. The commotion drew the attention of the other six guards, who quickly gathered in front of the lounge. After a few moments of kicking, the managed to break the door down. They soon backed up, becoming woozy from the remnants of gas.
In this condition, they weren't prepared for the flash bomb that West threw at them. With a sudden bang, all the remaining guards were blinded, choking on gas, and groping around for their submachineguns. West pressed the signal button, and from a personnel door alongside the entrance cargo door, eight people wearing nondescript clothing charged in. They ran immediately to the trucks, and started them again. West opened the exit door, and within seconds the convoy was gone, leaving the bewildered guards still gasping. West signaled to the RAD team that it was time to go. They all made a break for the door the drivers had come in.
It was locked! With no other choice, they ran the long way through the warehouse towards the exit cargo door. Just before they were out, the guards started recovering, and began shooting after them. West and Boom turned to return fire as Duncan and Sharpknux got out. The Tycoon security guards immediately fanned out, and hid behind crates. West could tell that if they made a break for the door, that they'd be mowed down. West and Boom had to stay and fight. They knew they were surrounded, they just didn't know exactly from where. Standing back to back, they prepared to meet the enemy.
"Throw down your weapons!" one of the guards ordered.
West had a plan at the same time. He sent Boom several hand motions. He sprinted as quietly as he could toward the huge crate in front of the lounge while Boom covered him. West then threw a second flash bomb over the cargo container to confuse any guards behind it. It's momentary distraction allowed him to climb up the ten-foot crate. Boom couldn't see the rest of the guards, but West could. Boom ran for cover on the opposite side of the warehouse. The guards, now recovering, moved quickly to cover the center of the warehouse. Realizing that their prey had escaped, they began carefully rounding every corner to hunt them down. They didn't see West watching from above, as he motioned to Boom to take out the exit guard. Boom ran towards the crate closest to the exit, and miraculously wasn't seen because the crates were packed with little space in between. Dodging suddenly around the crate, he saw the guard. Boom opened fire immediately, and took him out. The rest of the guards heard the fire, and turned to the door. Boom ran the last twenty feet to the exit and escaped, just as West hit the button to close the door. West leapt down from the crate and brought his WildClip to bear as he ran to lay down defensive fire. As he made his desperate run from the exit, one of the guards did a leg dive in front of him, throwing West to the ground and knocking the wind out of him. He watched helplessly as the door closed
"Freeze! Federal Agents!" the leader of the guards shouted.
West stumbled getting up, before someone hit him in the back of the head.
Federal Agents? was West's last, shocked thought before he went unconscious.
Boom met Duncan and Sharpknux outside and told them the news. "Last thing I saw before the door closed was West on the ground," Boom finished. "Are you sure he was captured?" Duncan asked. "Positive." "We should go in after him," Sharpknux said, lifting his weapon. "We have no chance," Duncan said, "We're outnumbered, and we don't have the element of surprise any more. Plus, the gas in the room is probably wearing off now. The only thing we can do is go back and get Curt and Cam cracking the Tycoon's security servers." Sharpknux still didn't want to leave West behind, but agreed that this was their best chance of a rescue.
Back at his apartment, Custer was not pleased at all, but he had to admit that the failure was hardly Boom's fault. Curt suggested just collecting the money and not wasting time rescuing West, but a sharp order from Custer put him to work. Custer went to collect the payment anyway, though he had no intention of abandoning West.
Hours later, Curt reported in disbelief that the Tycoon's security records said nothing about West being captured or killed, and the Tycoons always kept accurate updated records. Cam reported that as a backup, she had searched for information about the convoy moving through the warehouse. According to the records, the Tycoons were not expecting a convoy for two weeks. Their confusion was interrupted when the phone rang.
West wasn't sure what had happened. He took on an ordinary assignment, and wound up tied to a chair under a harsh interrogation light, speaking to a harsher interrogator.
"I don't believe you actually thought the convoy was Tycoon. The only reason someone would attack a convoy like that is if they knew it was government property!" The interrogator shouted, "Why did you do it?"
"I was hired," West answered.
"I don't know. He wouldn't give information."
"And you took a job without knowing the employer?
"Who helped you?"
"I want names."
"I want to know why I'm here."
The interrogator yelled in West's face, "You attacked an undercover government convoy! Does that explain it?"
"No. I didn't know it was government."
"You actually thought you were attacking a Tycoon convoy?"
"That's what my employer said, and that's what it looked like, so yes."
"It doesn't matter what you thought! Government security has been compromised, and you are to blame! Now I want to know who stole those trucks!"
"You and me both."
Suddenly, a door flew open, and General Wortham walked in. "Excuse me, but Mr. West is being transferred to my custody."
"On whose authority?" The interrogator demanded.
Wortham handed him a datapad.
"I think this is out of military jurisdiction," the interrogator said, but he released West to General Wortham anyway.
Walking down the hall, Wortham spoke to West. "I guess you can see how difficult these Federal Agents can be. You had no way of knowing about that convoy."
"I want to know who hired me. Can you help?"
"We're already on it," Wortham assured him, "In the mean time, you're free to go. Just stay away from government officials, alright?"
West agreed, and headed out the front door. He recognized Custer's 5500 GT at the curb, and realized that he was here to pick him up.
"Wortham called about half an hour ago, said he was going to spring you," Custer said as West approached, "I've already picked up the payment, it's in the floor in the briefcase."
West took the passenger side seat, as Custer walked back to the driver's side. He opened the briefcase, and examined the contents. Yes, it was all there. Custer drove back to his apartment.
"Do you think it's possible to get finger print readings from this case to find out who left it?" West asked.
"We can try," Custer said, doubting that they'd find anything.
Once they were in Custer's apartment, Cam scanned the briefcase for fingerprints. "Sorry," she reported, "the only ones I can determine are West's and Custer's." "I hate mysteries like this," Custer announced. "So do I," West said darkly, "and I'm going to find the man who did this. He must have known about that convoy." "I'm sure," Custer said, "We'll be happy to help you any way we can." "Thanks, but this is personal," West said, "I'll contact you if I need any hacked info, but other than that...I'm going hunting."
West turned, and left a very confused team behind him.